Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the notched mailbox my daughter has this cardboard house we bought for her at "the world's largest dairy store"...and her favorite thing about it i think is the mail box. She's loves mail, it's awesome. She'll stand outside the house for as long as you put up with being inside of it passing mail back and forth through the slot...anything cards, plastic toast, you name it...
...mailboxes stuck in my mind last week
... i visited friends, churches and church plants last week in PA sharing what we're up to. I heard many stories about fear and uncertainty in these "economically unstable times"...pastors are worried as giving is down, non-profits are worried that giving is down, jobs are being slashed, buses are going on can easily overwhelm you, and for good reason... i did a lot of praying on the spot as people told me their stories.
...each time i spoke with someone i was reminded of a visit i had last week with an 82 year old woman who attends New Hope (the Anglican church I'm pastoring)
...she grew up in Kansas in the early thirties...she's not a financial advisor and you'll never see her on CNN...she has a keen awareness of hardship, food and money...see she lived through the depression... she lived in the dust-bowl. She was hit by one of the uncontrollable causes of the depression and the economic fall-out as well.
...yet in the midst of it all her family still fed neighbors and strangers alike. Her father was a postman and had one of the few secure jobs. People knew that they had food, they knew others didn't and their hearts that had been molded by Jesus spilled out the overflow into the cramped stomachs of the hungry... those days, hobos and the unemployed had a system of marking houses that would feed you, often notching mailbox posts. My daughters mailbox brings her joy, these mailboxes brought hope. here's the challenge i was given by The Lord as i drove home last night about my mailbox and i pass it along to you;
is your mailbox notched, or is it marked with washable markers like my daughter has.
See, notches take an awful lot of work to cover up...sanding, filling, painting. Washable marker cleans up with only water, they don't even stain.... it doesn't take much to make it as if a mark was ever there
...the Lord asked me this question and i was grateful to reply, "Lord, my house is notched because you notched it". See, i could only use a marker, but in God's mercy He changed that...

Ezekiel 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in
them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of

...and i keep ever before me the One who did more than notch His mailbox to feed me Himself... i pose the question to your house notched, or not? Will mere water wash away your serving, or will you pour out your life like Jesus did for you? If you could answer yes, wipe the tears of gratitude away from you eyes and say thank you to Jesus, if you couldn't, ask the Lord to show you what He did for you...He really wants to. this is how the church has grown and God has worked through times of famine His people gave, in times of plague they cared for the sick and went to houses of death, the ran into the fires, not away...because the Word did the same thing (John 1:1) i walked around my house this morning putting things away i found; a stroller against my garage door that my neighbor gave me to give to the needy, a booster seat and a bag of clothes to pass along in our storage room that a parishioner had given my wife for us to distribute and a gift in the mail to help us pay our bills... by God's mercy my family has marks of their foreheads and we are know to have a notched mailbox...
...see, when we live lives that show our treasure is not of this earth others take notice, come along and do the same. It's "pay-it-foward" in response to salvation.
Blessings to you all, may all of your needs be supplied by Jesus...and may He give you His heart so that you may give as He gave so that all might be His children and be saved.

Isaiah 49:8-16 This is what the LORD says: "In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!' "They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar-- some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan." Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How can that happen in America?

God does things in my life that are so outrageously extraordinary that it leaves no doubt who is behind it...

This past weekend tragedy struck a family in Kaduna, Nigeria. The Anglican Bishops son died while living in the UK of a virulent strain of meningitis that took his life in a matter of two days and I found myself connected to this deep sadness in the front seat of a Honda CRV while in a parking lot in Amesbury, MA.

I checked my email on my Blackberry during a break at the Anglican Awakening conference this past weekend. Hundreds had gathered to worship The Father and witness an historic event as the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya ordained priests and deacons to serve as missionaries here in America. There were black faces, yellow faces, brown faces, white faces....all shapes and sizes and many languages gathered in that Holy Space. We had come to gather in unity as Jesus commanded us to, for He wishes the church to be one.

...and He brought unity to Joyce, Martin and myself on the sidelines of the whole event. Martin is an evangelist from the Diocese of Kaduna and I asked if he knew of this man and the boy who had died. Indeed he was priested by the Bishop and spent years working with the son, watching his children grow up in the church...."oh man, oh man" was all he could say...."there will be great mourning"...we began to pray, asking for the mercy of God to descend upon fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends...

and when we had finished Martin lifted his head and looked at me..."how could this happen in England?"...."Martin" I said "nowhere is safe from the effects of the fall of man and the brokenness of the world" and I proceeded to tell him of my sons death....and he had that look that he understood for the first time...color, geographic location, nor money can build a wall to keep pain and death away...

he lost his vision of the Industrialized Nation as the Eden....'s time the church did too. I was hit by this article on Yahoo news this morning...

"Some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, while close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year's sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.

The department's annual report on food security showed that during 2007 the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50 percent above the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.
Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006.

That was 12.2 percent of Americans who didn't have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.

The government says these people suffered a substantial disruption in their food supply at some point and classifies them as having "very low food security." Until the government rewrote its definitions two years ago, this group was described as having "food insecurity with hunger."

The church has forgotten what Providence means...oh, that doesn't happen in America.
It has, it does, it is....and God is asking what will you do? Now, I understand that God places these things in front of me in a powerful way, and he has asked me to step out like He has few others....I mean, here were two people who lived many miles from their homes in a parking lot connected by the sacrifice of Jesus...and tragedy

At New Hope we've started to work with Angel Food Ministries to help our neighbors not suffer...and we're easing the strain on our own food bills as well!

Yes, it happens in America...but even in the midst of all the "it's" that happen, thanks be to God that we have the grace of God to endure through the mercy and love of Jesus...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I love my Master, I will not go free...

If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. ..... "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

Exodus 26:2-6

It was 1990 when I graduated from college on the East End of Long Island...that's out in Suffolk county, across the accent line for those of you who just read "longa Eyeland". It's was a magical place, and still is in most ways even though Route 27 has gotten wider and the traffic longer.

Back then it was a place where the multi-million dollar homes were just starting to spring up in the potato fields that were so productive because of the cool climate and sandy soil. East End wines were gaining favor and one of my college friends worked at Bridge Hampton Winery so we often sampled the wares. I fulfilled my childhood dream of surfing during those years. My first board was an old Hawaiin Design single-fin pin-tail (just think a yellow surfboard) that was pocked with patches of marine boat filler. In the last few years of the 90's God seemed to bless the East End with swell after swell. I learned to ride large surf and like it.

We never stopped surfing...spring, winter, summer fall. We would paddle out in snow storms and dance on waves with Harbour seals, coating our faces with Vaseline and our bodies with as thick a layer of neoprene as we could afford. We would surf out at the lighthouse on weekends. We'd change in the public bathrooms while standing under the hot-air hand dryers thawing out our fingers until they were flexible enough to pull off our booties.

Ah, those were the days, or so I thought.

I had declared to the sea and waves "pierce my ear, I love you and will not go free." It was years later while living in Colorado that I discovered the One who made the sea, and some time later declared "I love you Master, I will not go free."

I would like to say that after that I never turned back. Paul writes that our entire lives are struggles between the Old Adam and the New Adam (Romans 7:16ff) Just like I had many ear piercings in the 90's I had many spiritual ones as well. If we could look at our lives and see just how many spiritual piercings our ears actually have we would stare in disbelief and wouldn't hold our head up due to the weight of the earrings.

But the wondrous, scandalous thing is that Jesus has pierced himself for us, in effect saying I love my Master, I will not leave....them. It was not an awl and a doorpost, but a Roman spear and nails on a cross that formed the threshold of the doorway to everlasting life for those who would receive the gift of His love and mercy.

Have you ever entered His house? Do you want to leave His house? Has Satan deceived you into thinking that it is in ruins? Do you want to swap it for the one down the street? Has the hole in your ear you once asked for closed because you have taken the earring out one to many times?

Today friends, say Master, pierce my ear. Pierce it again if you need to too. Take the jewelry I have purchased in the bazaar and give me the one back, I know you have kept it safe (Matthew 18:21 ff, John 21:8ff).

I love you Master, I will not go free...